Sunday, April 6, 2014

Things that lift my spirits.

  • Goofy dancing in the kitchen
  • Hot coffee
  • Talking to my sisters.  Even when we're talking about depressing things, like the end of one sister's marriage, our father's memorial service, or our inability to stop stuffing cookies into our faces.
  • The tenderness with which my son interacts with his stuffed animals
  • Birds at the feeder outside the kitchen window.
  • Call me evil, but the knowledge that my niece, well-loved and well-parented since day one, blessed with health and intelligence and charm, can and occasionally does out-brat my own kids. 
  • Zoloft.  I missed two days in the chaos of last week, and Saturday I was immobilized by headache and misery.  Now I'm back on track, and feeling fine.
  • Spooning.
  • The way my kids scream "Daddy!" and race to bear hug him whenever he walks in the door.
  • Reading to my kids. They have rejected every chapter book besides the "early reader" types, but right now we are reading the first Harry Potter, and apparently it IS magic, because despite the lack of pictures, Britishisms, and very different pace than, say "Mr. Putter and Tabby Ride the Train," they are listening intently and asking for more. 
  • Being known.  Last night my husband and I watched a movie together.  Afterwards I was sitting on the couch with my laptop.  He wandered past and, without looking at the screen, asked, "What do the reviews say?"  So I told him.
  • Getting outdoors.  
  • The clock on the mantle.  The tick-tock and bonging on the hour drive my husband and son nuts.  But it's the clock that was in the kitchen as I grew up, so the sounds are old friends to me.  I like the ritual of winding it each week, and I appreciate being reminded of the time each half hour.  
  • Time with friends.  
  • Getting into the car and realizing my husband filled the tank.
  • The incredibly soft sweatshirt my husband got for Christmas.  Purr.  It's a win-win, since he loves me to rub his shoulders.  
  • Singing my daughter to sleep.
  • Payday.  Times are tough, and there's a palpable sense of relief each time the bank account gets replenished.
  • Red wine, chocolate, and reading.  Duh

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Things I Am Not On Top Of

1.  Clutter.  It's everywhere.  Mostly paper, or at least that's the format I find most annoying, yet have no solutions for.  The toys I can work around, and then say, "Everything you don't want tossed needs to go upstairs in the next half hour!" and it all magically moves to their rooms.  Jackets--I've accepted that I'm the only person who is both tall enough and invested enough to hang up the coats, and it takes me less than a minute to do so.  But the paper is EVERYWHERE, and CONSTANT, and ALL OF US generate it and NONE OF US know what to do with it. 

2.  My weight.  Four years ago, I joined Weight Watchers, rather self-consciously, because philosophically and emotionally, I am anti-diet.  But I'd gained 15 lbs a year, 3 years in a row, and a friend of mine (who has diabetes, and knows that diabetes runs in my family) was brave enough to point out that I should probably change my habits.  I lost a satisfying amount of weight, then put a little back on, but was still comfortable with myself.  I don't need my body to look like it did in my teens and 20s.  I'm okay with being soft around the middle and having sturdy thighs and actually needing a bra for the first time.  But something changed in the past school year, and my consumption of sweets, always high, because obsessive.  I stop in the car on the way home from work, buy candy and/or cookies, eat most of them in the car, hide them in my bag, eat the rest at work the next day, then repeat.  Not surprisingly, I no longer own any comfortable pants.  The button on my favorite pair of jeans popped off.  The button that is RIVETED to the pants. 

3.  My internet usage.  Blah.  I don't even want to talk about this one.  Not because it's porn or anything, just that it's dumb and such a waste of time--not just time I could be productive in, but time I could have fun in.  Pinterest, Candy Crush, FB, TV tropes...seriously?  Why do I do this?  If I were blogging, or reading the handful of blogs I really feel connected to, or researching for work, that would be okay.  But I get on the computer telling myself I'll do one of those things, and three hours's two hours past my bedtime.

4.  Which is one reason I am blogging so little.

5.  And it's also one reason I'm not getting enough sleep.

6.  #3 + #5 combined are making me less effective at my job too.  Teaching takes a lot of energy.  I have been put into a new position three years in a row, and this year my whole school is undergoing a massive changeover to new technology, so the learning curve has been steep.  I love my job, but I'm tired, and I'm not putting as much into it as I need to be successful. 

Luckily, I have an indomitable optimism. 

No, really.  I also have a healthy amount of self deprecating snark, but despite being stressed and anxious and angry and sad about all of the above, I am still basically okay.  Maybe that's just the anti depressants talking, but honestly, once I survived the ages of 12-15, I've always felt like I'm basically okay.  I screw up, and fail to live up to my ideals, and act selfishly, and am lazier the older I get, and forget to follow up on things...but it's okay.  I'm human.  I'm re-joining weight watchers.  I'm eyeing some simple organization ideas.  I'm thinking of making myself a schedule, so time wasting activities fill in around the edges instead of replacing things I actually care about. 

What's not on this list?  Parenting.  Maybe that's why I'm not beating myself up more for all these failures.  I am putting my energy where it counts most.  It's still a struggle, but it's a struggle I am actively engaged in.  We aren't where we want to be, but the progress is visible.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Proposal

I just put Linden to bed.  She was asking a mix of existential and scientific questions, as she often does at bedtime.  "What would happen if the world was spinning really fast, like good morning! Good night!  Good morning!" 

I came downstairs and transferred the 4th of the laundry loads that the Winemaker started today into the dryer, just so I could say I helped.  He and Oak were spinning tops on the kitchen floor, counting out the seconds the tops spun depending on their spinning technique.  I was thinking about our first IEP meeting tomorrow morning, which is at 8:00, a half hour before school starts, but twenty minutes after the kids usually catch the bus.  I pictured myself saying, "I have a proposal--let's take the kids to the bus stop, then go get a cup of good coffee on our way to the meeting."  Then, because we have such a predictable sense of humor, I was imagining me first saying, "I have a proposal...will you marry me?  I love you more than I ever could have imagined, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you." 

Then I paused, hands deep in the dryer, and thought--well THAT'S all true.  Lately I've been lazy,  and he's been crabby with the kids, and we've both been sick and spending far too much time on our respective computers....and I love him to pieces.   It was so swooningly romantic those dozen years ago, when we were in that crazy hormonal stage of love.  Now it's more about getting behind on laundry and taking kids to Tae Kwon Do and running out of TP and asking him to be sure to pick up my dad's ashes at the post office because I keep forgetting to on my way home from work--but the love is even more central to my life.  I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I love him more than I could ever have imagined. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sun Breaks

Much like the apocryphal hundreds of ways to say snow in Eskimo, those of us in the Pacific Northwest linguistically differentiate between all sorts of rain events.  Pouring, drizzling, misting, showers, spitting down, steady rain, etc.  Then there are the sun breaks.  Do you have sun breaks where you live?  In case it's not obvious, a day with sun breaks is a day with mostly wet weather, but when the rain pauses, it's not just a sullen dampness that replaces it, but actual sunshine.  Clouds blow around, blue sky peeks through, and for five, ten, even fifteen minutes, we get a sun break.

Then, usually, it starts raining again.

The skies here have been steadily grey the past several days.  It hasn't rained all that much, but we haven't had the relief of any sun breaks either.  However, the internal weather, ah, that's a different story.

February was bad, man.  Death and a sinus infection and a snowstorm I couldn't enjoy.  I didn't work a full week all month, and I didn't do anything else either.  There were a few days when things were quiet enough that I could read mindlessly--YA fiction, mysteries.  But there were more days when I dragged myself from the bed to the couch and back again.  I couldn't be bothered to figure out what to cook, since I had neither energy nor appetite.  I didn't vacuum once all month.  My kids developed a sense of entitlement regarding screen time that I suspect we'll be regretting until June.  My husband has been struggling with his own crap--depression and losing a job, which really really really helped with the depression, as you can imagine--but he did get some medication adjusted towards the end of the month and stepped up, making sure we all had clean underwear and hot food.  

Last weekend I finally got some antibiotics.  Monday afternoon I looked around and said, "Hey, I think I'm ready to go back to work."  I was pretty exhausted each day when I came home, but I worked the rest of the week, and while it was horrifying to see how little my students had gotten done all month, it was good to start regrouping.  I even spent some time Friday working on a complicated list of students to sort out for a big project for the team of teachers I share students with.  It wasn't much, but it was the first time in a while I'd been able to think bigger than "What am I teaching next period?" and actually carry my weight with my colleagues.

This weekend there were more such moments.  I baked salted caramel brownies for a potluck dinner party.  I showed up for the damn party, after bowing out of social engagements for weeks on end.  Today I'm making dinner from a cookbook, instead of falling back on spaghetti or baked chicken.  I finally pulled out the stack of torn stuffed animals and mended did surgery as needed.  I had some free time and looked at my stack of mindless reading, then reached past the genre fiction to pull out "We Need to Talk About Kevin," which is not mindless reading.  (Boy, is it not!) I let the neighbor girl come over and showed her how to set up an embroidery hoop and outline her initial, and I helped my own girl organize the art supplies, which we store in her bedroom just because that's where there's room.  I helped my husband apply for jobs, and celebrated with him when one winery contacted him to say they think he's overqualified for the job he applied for, so would he please come in next week to talk about a different job?

I took the Christmas wreath off the door and deconstructed it so the boughs went into composting and the bones into the trash.  Yes, I took down my Christmas wreath on March 1 this year.  It was time.

Rain will come again, but I'm turning my face to the sun while it lasts.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It's true, thank goodness!

 There are some very charming PSAs on the slogan "You don't need to be perfect to be a perfect parent.

That's all.  Watch a bunch.  Smile.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Grief, snow, laziness, photos.

In the past 10 days, in roughly chronological order, I found out that my husband was about to get fired, my dad went into the hospital, my husband got fired, my dad went into hospice, my kids both got vicious ear infections, and my dad died.  Catching a cold and the snowstorm arriving were pretty anticlimatic. 

Strike that.  The snowstorm has been a blessing.  I'd taken the first two days of the new semester off when my dad died, which of course resulted in chaos (middle schoolers being especially poor at CHANGE and also SUBSTITUTES), so I went back in on Wednesday.  Thursday we were sent home early, and Friday wasn't even a question.  My kids were mostly over their crud by then, and it turns out that snow is an even better babysitter than electronics.  For one thing, it involves them leaving the house, which allows me to read and nap.  For another thing, they can indulge all day long, and I don't feel like a terrible parent.

But then I go on Facebook (I know, I know), and see all these photos of laughing families playing in the snow, and I'm all, "Why am I just sending my kids out into the snow all day without me?  This would be such a great bonding experience!  Think of all the attachment I'm not doing!  I bet all the other parents are out there going, 'Gee, why don't Linden and Oak's parents ever come out and play with them?' What if it doesn't snow again for five more years and by then they won't want to hang out with me?"

And then I realize that merely standing up makes my head hurt, and the wind blows a spray of snow and ice off the neighbor's roof, and I'm all, "Nope, I'm good.  At least they're having fun instead of stuck inside with the two gloomy grown-ups."

I think a lot about my mom.  We all do, right?  She's our example of Mom and Wife and Woman, and we can't help but to compare ourselves.  Mine was tough.  Indomitable.  In my mind, she would have gotten out there and played, plus the bathrooms would have been clean, and she wouldn't have plaintively asked friends to bring her dinners, and she would have already figured out what to do about death certificates.  Then again, I will always remember waking up to the sound of her shrieking and wailing when she got the call that her mom had died in a house fire, so you know, grief.  It fucks you up.

Grief plus head colds?  Blech.

During these past ten hard days I've napped off and on, stayed up too late scrolling Pinterest, and eaten food other people brought us.  The kids have gotten no craft projects or library trips; I've only read aloud once.  The Winemaker and I have spent too much time on separate computers instead of actually with each other.  We lay on the bed, unable to wake ourselves up, and when we hear a kid come stomping noisily onto the back porch, we groan.  "Okay, I'll take this one if you get the next time." 

And then I read this, and even though it's about much more than that, the point I pull out of it is that it's okay to not be productive every single minute of every single day, that I can pull back from my life and not be a bad person.  

I'm still, after all, a mom and a wife and a person.  I've shown up at work, washed four loads of laundry, played cards with the kids, and made cookies.  I insisted on 20 minutes of schoolwork this morning, I wrote my dad's obituary, and I talked my son through his hurt feelings about sled hogging to lead him towards a resolution that involved him starting with an apology for his own earlier sled hogging.  I helped bottle five cases of wine and made my husband's favorite breakfast.  I sat on the couch with sisters and friends and looked at family photo albums.  I read a book.  I wrote those goddamn sub plans, which is always a hellish experience, made worse by the knowledge that the sub is pretty much screwed no matter how hard I work at the plans, and I will just have to come back and start over again anyway.  When the kids swing by the house, I supply them with dry clothes and hot snacks, and I bite my tongue to keep from bitching about the mess they strew behind them.

Two friends brought bouquets, so like my mom always said when she put fresh flowers out, "There.  I cleaned house."

I'm going to close with a bunch of pictures of my dad.  That kind of breaks my privacy policy, but he's in no position to complain.  (Too soon?  Sorry.  But he'd think it was funny, so I'm okay with it.)

Since he was, obviously, a photographer, here are a few of his shots.  I don't have many on this computer, but trust me, he was great.

 And finally, this super hot picture of my parents on Sept. 10, 1955.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Girly girls and tomboys

I am a girl.  Well, a former girl.  I was raised in a family of four daughters.  I wore dresses that swirled out when I spun in a circle.  I played dress-up and dolls.  All of my friends in elementary and middle school were girls.  I did not participate in sports, unless you count twirling on the gym bar, kickball in the backyard, or the occasional game of HORSE with my dad.  I read Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Trixie Belden, and my favorite movie was The Sound of Music.  I took ballet and piano lessons.  Nobody ever called me a tomboy.  I was a girly girl.

As an adult, I drink lattes and snarf down chocolate.  My absolute favorite thing to do is sit and chat.  Next comes reading, knitting, hiking, and cuddling with my kids or my husband.  I make picture books on Snapfish, obsess over Pinterest, and have to wait for my husband or kids to turn on the DVDs for me.  I can bake a cake, but not change the oil.  I wear earrings and scarves, and my favorite recent purchase is a burgundy skirt that swirls around my calves when I walk.  I overuse the word "cute." 

I also haven't shaved my legs since my junior year in college.  I wore makeup daily in high school, but somewhere in college started to only wear it when I was going out.  At the time, that meant once or twice a week; now it means a few times a year.   I don't style my hair, other than to stick it in a ponytail if I overslept and didn't wash it.  I wear ugly shoes because they don't make my feet hurt.  When colleagues start discussing who they think should appear in the movie version of "Fifty Shades of Grey," I haven't heard of any of the actors mentioned, and I still haven't read the book.  I don't care if my husband or kids dress funny.   I've never had a manicure, and I get the cheapest haircut I can find.  I wore a wine colored dress for my wedding, which took place in my parents' living room with fifteen relatives present.  Pinterest weddings seem insane to me.

I have always felt that my infertility is not that big of a deal.

Today Linden was sitting in my lap after school, and apropos of nothing announced, "There's a girl in my class who's a tomboy."

"Only one?" I not-so-innocently replied.

"I mean, Mom, most girls like girl things but she likes boy things."

"I know what a tomboy is," I responded tartly.  "I am just surprised there's only one in your whole class."

I want to sit her down for a lecture about gender roles and stereotypes.  I want to call on her to be kind to this girl who has been singled out by her peers as different.  I want to point out that at Target or any other cheap venue for toys, the toy aisles are so garishly and extravagantly color coded, while at the expensive, locally owned stores they are not.  (What does THAT say about gender and class?)  I want to quote at her an article I read today, written by a coworkers daughter--that if we like swirly skirts and talking about our feelings and eating chocolate, it is not because we are women--we are just women who happen to like those things.  And if I don't shave my legs and don't need years to recover from the disappointment of infertility--I'm not less of a woman.  I'm just a woman who doesn't worry about those particular things.  Another woman could feel the exact reverse about each of those, and still be a woman.  A woman, in fact, could be born in a man's body and still be a woman.  Or a woman could be a lesbian, or a football player, or a model, or a pilot, get the idea.  I basically wanted to rain down "Free to Be You and Me" feminism on her head. But her brother came in and wanted attention too, and the moment slipped away. 

Can I be a girly girl if I hate pink and have no skin care regime?  Can I be a feminist if I do all the dishes and count on my husband to deal with all things car related?  Does my 25 years of membership in a mountain climbing club make me a tomboy?

Well, duh, yes to all of those.  And also no, to all of them, because who wants to live in one of those little boxes?  That's what I want her to understand, I think.  You get to be You, and so does everyone else.